Horse Racing with Jason Hall

THE final qualifier of the £60,000 Cheltenham Plumpton Bonus Series took place at Plumpton on Monday of this week and despite a field of only five, racegoers were treated to a superb duel between two tough and genuine novice chasers.

From the outset, the Nick Gifford-trained Alderluck and Gary Moore’s Fruity O’Rooney contested the lead and that tussle continued for nearly the whole of the three-and-a-quarter mile journey.

Both are trained here in Sussex and, after going clear of their toiling rivals leaving the back straight for the final time, the battle really started to intensify after the pair jumped the third last fence and quickened for home around the Station bend.

Clearing the penultimate obstacle there was still nothing to split these two willing horses, but a bold leap at the last from Alderluck gave him a length lead and that finally divided the duo and he went on to score a battling success.

This series has been a great success over the years, having attracted some decent horses to the course for local enthusiasts to enjoy and this year there must be a good chance that the Bonus will be won for the first time since Voy Por Ustedes took the loot.

He was trained by Alan King who has been a great supporter of the series and many believe the trainer was very unlucky not to win the £60,000 Bonus prize last year when Bensalem fell whilst travelling like the winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

This season, King is again responsible for the horse holding probably the best chance of capturing the Bonus with his classy novice Medermit, who won here in November and is near the head of the betting market for the Arkle at Cheltenham, a championship race for the best 2m novice chasers around.

He is an extremely realistic prospect to complete the Plumpton Cheltenham double and reap its reward which will be a superb advert for our local course.

Nick Gifford said on Monday that Alderluck was very unlikely to run at the Festival but he did update us on Tullamore Dew who has also won one of the qualifiers and probably holds the next best chance of winning the Bonus behind Medermit.

“Tullamore Dew will not run in one of the championship races but will contest either the novice handicap chase or the Plate. He is absolutely bouncing at home and I just need to keep the lid on him over the next month. I think he has a live chance at the Festival, but it is always tough there.”

Two other local Sussex trainers tasted success at Plumpton on Monday.

The Jevington trainer Anna Newton-Smith procured significant improvement from her mare Little Roxy to win the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle.

She left all of her previous disappointing form behind her and landed a bit of a plunge in the betting market to boot.

Suzy Smith sent out her Beau Lake to win the 2m hurdle and in so doing break the gelding’s maiden at the tenth time of asking over the smaller obstacles.

From her base in Lewes on the site of the now defunct racecourse, Suzy had news on Aimigayle, her top handicap chaser: “We were really pleased with her at Sandown on her return and thought we still had a good chance going down the back straight. However, she had a dirty scope later and we believe that is the reason she stopped so quickly. It is a setback but one we can overcome.”

Finally, should Megastar take his chance at Sandown today, it is a good opportunity to boost his confidence before going to the Festival.